1960 Olympics: Popularity Boom

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1960 Summer Olympics

Host: Rome, Italy

Medal table winner: The Soviet Union

Held between August 25th and September 11th, the 1960 Olympics saw the biggest installment of the games yet as the Olympiad continued to explode in popularity. For the first time the games were broadcast in North America and an incredible 83 nations competed. Morocco, San Marino, Tunisia and Sudan all made their debuts in the Italian capital.

Rome won the right to host the games after defeating candidates such as Tokyo, Detroit and Lausanne in a 1955 committee vote. The decision came 52 years after the city had to surrender its hosting rights to London after Mt. Vesuvius’ 1906 eruption destroyed the Italian economy.

West and East Germany continued to compete as one as ‘The United Team of Germany’, an astonishing arrangement that would unfortunately end in 1964. The Rome games also saw the last time South Africa would appear at the games until 1992, due to their toxic apartheid regime.

The Soviet Union once again topped the medal table for the second consecutive Olympic games; the US had to settle again for second. Hosts Italy came in at a solid third whereas any hope sustained from the Melbourne competition were crushed for the UK who sank to 12th in the table. The ’60 games also saw the debut of live international TV coverage of the competitions.

Wilma Rudolph’s incredible recovery

The legendary, triple sprint gold medalist Wilma Rudolph

The legendary, triple sprint gold medalist Wilma Rudolph

One of the most incredible and inspirational stories to arise from the 1960 Olympics came via American sprinter Wilma Rudolph. Against all the odds, Rudolph competed in the 1956 games despite having suffered from polio in her youth and infantile paralysis. The ‘Black Gazelle’ took bronze in the 4x100m relay in Melbourne yet would gain further success in Rome.

Rudolph kick started her immense Olympic games with victory in the 100ms, comprehensively defeating the UK’s Dorothy Hyman by a huge 0.3 seconds. The 200m final saw yet another monumental victory, Rudolph won by nearly half a second with a time of 24.13s.

The hat trick was completed with an anchor leg in the United States’ gold medal winning 4x100m relay team. Rudolph’s hat trick of first places matched the achievement of Australian sprinter Betty Cuthbert four years before her.

India finally defeated

Since 1928, the infamous Indian field hockey team had obliterated all in front of them to win six consecutive gold medals in the sport. The team seemed truly invincible and although Pakistan had rocked them in the 1956 final, they came into the Rome games as huge favorites. Everyone expected the rampant Indians to make it seven in a row.

Normal service looked to be continuing as in India’s first game they annihilated Denmark 10-0, yet another ludicrous score line. Further wins over the Netherlands and New Zealand ensured they topped group A comfortably.

However, in the mean time Pakistan were making a name for themselves in group B. The new comers put Japan to the sword 10-0, thumped Poland 8-0 and breezed to a 3-0 victory over Australia. In the end Pakistan and India both made the final for the rematch of 1956, with both sides winning their quarter and semi final games by only a single goal.

September 9th saw India’s domination of the sport finally relinquish with Pakistan flipping the score line of 1956 on its head. India were defeated 1-0, with an early goal by Ahmad Nasir proving the killer blow to give Pakistan the gold.

Cassius who?

Mohammed Ali on top of the podium after winning boxing gold

Mohammed Ali on top of the podium after winning boxing gold

Potentially the biggest name to come out of the 1960 Olympics came in the form of American boxer Cassius Clay, or as you probably know him… Mohammed Ali. The Rome competition saw the legendary sportsman win gold in the light-heavyweight division boxing. The victory would propel Ali’s career to stardom and would later see him light the Olympic flame at the 1996 Olympics.

Under the name of the Clay, Ali defeated Polish boxer and owner of fourteen consonants Zbigniew Pietrzykowski in comfortable fashion for the coveted title. However, rather famously Ali tossed his gold medal into the Ohio river in anger and protest towards underlining racism in America at the time.

The legendary athlete would later receive an honorary medal in replacement during the Atlanta games 36 years later.

Six in a row

The Rome Olympics also marked the end of one of the most immense careers in the history of the summer games. For the sixth Olympiad on the trot, Hungary took victory in the Team Sabre event in the fencing calendar. Poland were defeated in the final by the rampant central Europeans and hosts Italy took the bronze.

However, what proved most impressive was the presence of Aladár Gerevich in the Hungarian team. The Jászberény born athlete is renowned as ‘the great ever Olympic swordsman’ due to his place in all six of those Team Sabre victories. Even with the 12-year interference of the Second World War, Gerevich kept up his astonishing run.

Hitting his peak in 1948 where Gerevich took gold in the individual sabre, the Hungarian competed in Los Angeles, Berlin, London, Helsinki, Melbourne and Rome in the team event, winning gold every time. Rome signaled the curtains closing on an Olympic legend whose sixth consecutive team medal was won at the age of 50, incredible!

Other sports

History was made in the marathon race through the streets of Rome, as Ethiopian athlete Abebe Bikila became the event’s inaugural black African winner. Bikila defeated Moroccan Rhadi Ben Abdesselam in a time of 2:15:16.2 (an Olympic record) despite competing barefoot.

The Japanese men’s gymnastic team also saw the beginning of their Olympic domination of the event that would last until the 1976 Montreal games. Their debut win masterminded the overthrowing of reigning champions Russia who were defeated by 2.5 points. Hosts Italy finished third.

Rome also saw the stage for one of the Olympics most legendary sprinters in the form of Armin Hary of Germany. The then 23 year old won the 100ms in an Olympic record time of 10.2 seconds before anchoring his nation’s successful 4x100m relay squad.

Kobe, YJA Senior Sports Correspondent

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